There are few people to be seen out on the Causses of the Minervois or the hills of the Corbières, at this, or any other time of the year. In twelve months one might encounter a dozen other walkers. It’s a real and rare pleasure to be out in the wilds on my own. But I have to remind myself that I am not alone: there are others out there, and they are dangerous. Some may be five times my weight, and angry. Some may weigh less than me, but they are armed and stupid. Between the wild boars and the hunters, I’m at risk. The autumn/winter season is not over ’til the end of this month.
There are one and a half million chasseurs in France. In the 2006/2007 season they killed 466,352 sangliers out of a population of over a million. The mortality rate is decreasing (for humans, that is) – from 40 per year to 25 recently. All of them hunters. Of 142 people wounded – 12 were non-hunters. Two weeks ago, not far from here, a hunter panicked when a boar charged him. He killed his companion with an accidental blast. In 2005, Claude Rossetti of Montlaur three villages away, was killed while gathering mushrooms on Alaric mountain. He was shot accidentally by an ex-gendarme who was out hunting alone, illegally, on a day when boar-hunting is forbidden. One son, Sylvain, has started a national movement called Partageons La Nature – Share Nature, in an effort to bring an end to unnecessary death and injury.
cartridge cases below the shooting platform
His other son, Claude, wrote recently about the shooting in understandable – if barely intelligible – anger : – ‘ pour son acte heroique il a ete condamne a 6 mois de prison ferme amenageable ( autrement dit RIEN ) dans l’ aude il n y a pas de jour de non chasse quand ce n’est pas le petit c’est le gros gibier et en plus on chasse partout route chemin garrigue public prive et meme a n importe quelle heure du jour ou de la nuit dans l aude si lon n est pas chasseur on est rien . . . ‘
‘ there’s no day when there’s no hunting . . . ‘ – ‘ they’re hunting anywhere public land private land . . . at any time of the day or night . . . ‘ – ‘ if you’re not a hunter here – you’re nobody . . . ‘
The rules governing la chasse au sanglier have been tightened following this and other incidents – spot-checks for permits, and regulation orange vests and hats. But it is a macho culture where drinking plays a big role. I keep alert, fear the guns more than the tusks, and look forward to March.
This is all that remains of the Allée Couverte du Bois de Monsieur :-
Do you really want directions?
OK. Drive out of Agel on the D20, past Le Moulin de Madame. Somewhere along here the road turns into the D128. Fork L onto the D26 and go thru the hamlet of La Roueyre and on past La Grotte du Gourp des Boeufs, where the road morphs into the D177. You can do all this without knowing any of this – basically you’ve just gone from Agel to Assignan. The dolmen is in the far corner of the last vineyard on the left, down the track on the left after the pond above the village. It lies at 2.52’40” E , 43.23’50” N.
I came here armed with just one sentence gleaned from a 1962 ‘account of the activities of a member of the Societé d’ Etudes Scientifiques de l’Aude‘. In a paper he gave on the prehistoric relics of the region, he noted four sad, forgotten and neglected dolmens in the Minervois. One of them was the Allée Couverte du Bois de Monsieur, 500 metres off the Assignan to Coulouma road, on a ‘petit mamelon.’
Now, every maquis-covered bump in this landscape could be described as a ‘little breast’. So I assiduously fossicked over all the more likely ones – before doing the sensible thing : ask a local. The local turned out to be Monsieur Donnadieu, the mayor of Pardailhan (not of Donnadieu, which is a hameau nearby). And a font of information on all things historical in the neighbourhood. I managed to stem the flow with a promise to return soon – and got back up the road to a hill that resembled no breast I had ever known.
The dolmen is not marked on any map. The Bois de Monsieur is not mentioned on any plan cadastral. The breast at best is but a chest.
And the Allée Couverte – is just one last large orthostat surrounded by a heap of jumbled slabs. From the angle of the sun the dolmen is facing SW.
Move along now, folks. Nothing more to see.